Have a firm handshake. Make eye contact. Never let them see you sweat. These classic bits of advice for interview success remain true, but are no longer enough. In a world where 50 or 100 qualified applicants may apply for any given position, a candidate needs to go above and beyond to move from the interview to a job offer. These three strategies should help you to stand out from other candidates and better position you for that job offer.
Give Position Relevant Answers
One piece of stock interview advice is to only answer the question you’re asked. This is good advice, as far as it goes, but doesn’t necessarily advance your cause with a hiring committee in terms of interview success. If you’re a new college graduate and you’ve been asked to submit transcripts, anything on that transcript becomes fair game. At an interview for a position in a marketing or advertising firm, they might ask why you opted to minor in psychology. Odds are that you were required to fulfill a minor. Saying that you did something simply to meet a requirement is never the right answer, because it suggests that you didn’t give much thought to your future career. Instead, you can offer a position relevant answer along these lines. “Much of what we do in advertising hinges on understanding how people think and feel. It seemed to me that a thorough grounding in psychology could only improve my understanding of advertising principles.” An answer such as this suggests that, even while pursuing a degree, you were thinking in the long-term about your career.
Don’t Over-Share Personal Details
The thing you know the most about is your own life. This can tempt a person to ramble on about personal affairs when at a loss for what to say. Maybe you’re an avid outdoorsman or you run a 5K three times a year, but, unless those bits of information bear directly on the position you’re applying for, it’s best to mention them only in passing. Sharing too much information implies that you don’t handle high-pressure situations well, which is a black mark against you. It can also make the person on the other side of the table uncomfortable or, potentially worse, bored. If some personal experience is relevant, however, you should share it. If spending a summer helping your father build a shed inspired your interest in engineering, this serves to give you some depth and also helps to make you more memorable.
Include Your Volunteer Experiences on Your Resume
For many people, including volunteer positions on their resumes seems counter-intuitive. It wasn’t paid work or a college degree, so it doesn’t belong on a resume, right? Actually, it does belong there. If you’re new to the job market, volunteer experience is an excellent way of showing that you can make and keep commitments that entail actual work. Beyond that, listing these experiences makes it easier for the interviewer to formulate the kinds of questions that determine whether or not you’re the right fit for the organization. The other reason to include volunteer work is that a variety of interests serve as a tell-tale indicator of creativity and intelligence. Creative, intelligent people tend to try things out, both to see if it’s a fit for them and to stretch their minds. If your prospective employer wants to fill a position that calls for lateral thinking, volunteer positions help you stand out against other candidates.
Moving from the pressure-cooker of the interview process to getting a job offer can be difficult. By offering position relevant answers, sharing only pertinent personal information, and including information on your resume that most people neglect, you can help to position yourself for interview success.